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It’s Not About Getting Faster or Running Longer; It’s About Perfecting Form

Posted by on Nov 22, 2011 | 14 Comments

While crewing for Shelly at Javalina, I had the opportunity to spend considerable time with Jon Sanregret and Jesse Scott.  I love hanging out with these guys because we always have great conversations about running.  Most of the topics revolve around shoes, but we also dabble in every aspect of what we do.

After several beers, we started discussing running form.  Jesse brought up the idea that more people should focus on perfecting their running form versus trying to get faster or run longer.  The logic is simple- speed and edurance are a by-product of good form.  Focus on that and the others will follow.

All too often, people spend too much time trying to find the perfect training plan, perfect race food, or perfect shoes.  Yet they ignore the most important ingredient to success- how they run.

Jon and I had a discussion at some point over the last year.  He compared running to golf, a sport he played for years.  Golf is a game based entirely off good technique.  If you cannot hit a ball correctly, you’re never going to reach your potential. Some golfers may be exceptionally physically gifted, but without good technique they will be relegated to mediocrity.  Likewise, a golfer with sub-par physical attributes can perfect their technique and consistently excel.

Running is the same.  The vast majority of participants could improve dramatically if only they focused on learning good technique.  Just like golf, there’s a few of us with limited athletic ability that have managed to do some pretty decent stuff.

The lesson is simple- if you want to improve, start with your form.  Don’t concern yourself with track repeats, hill repeats, Fartlek runs, or elaborate crosstraining.  Learn the basics of good form first.  With that as a base, all else will come with ease.


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  1. David
    November 30, 2011

    Do all of it. Work on your form, speed and distance. It’s not only about form and should not be if you want to get faster and go longer.
    Barefoot and minimalist runners need to be able to compete with the shod and the big shoes runners winning and placing in races.

  2. Erik Lee Skjon
    November 25, 2011

    Fundamentals – important in everything. Short-cuts don’t work, I’ve found.

  3. Pat
    November 24, 2011

    Devils advocate (I kind of like that tittle)
    Perfect form does not exist!!!. Since you used the golf metaphor every shot requires a slight tweaking and green will never break exactly the same way. Thus each step is unique a skill set for running is important yet you must always beware of subtle changes. The shoe the stride the confidence that got you to point A may not be what is needed to get you to point B. The key is adaptability and with that comes awareness of ones own abilities both strengths and weaknesses. Listen too your body (easier said than done) stay aware of the present let go of expectations so that you can be free speed past what you once thought was unattainable. You will never run with perfection but as long as you can run faster than the guy next to you, you won’t get eaten by a bear.

  4. Trish Reeves
    November 23, 2011

    I wholeheartedly agree. *applause*

  5. briderdt
    November 23, 2011

    What? Finding the perfect shoes isn’t key? Blasphemy!! :^)

  6. jeff
    November 22, 2011

    I learned golf by myself and worked out things as best I could. Thinking of running what are some of the things that one would be working on? Keeping level and not bouncing? Breathing techniques? Just wondering what would be most effective techniques.

  7. Ken S.
    November 22, 2011

    This discussion is music to my ears. Unfortunately this idea is a hard sell for most runners.

  8. Alex
    November 22, 2011

    I’ve certainly run better since switching to zero (or close to it) drop shoes, and landing lighter, with a higher cadence. But that happened as a result of my training, rather than a focus. Perhaps I’m one of the lucky ones, but my body seemed to figure out how to run easily enough, once I got the foot bricks out of the way, and committed to doing the activity. Run slow, run fast, and everything in between, and you get better form, and better times.

  9. David Henry
    November 22, 2011

    Jason, I think you are right about needing to perfect form. Like some of the others, I’m wondering the best way to go about this. I’m only 2 years into running at this point, and I’ve done 4 ultras this year and after 11 months of pretty consistant running (5-7 days/week : 40-60 mi/wk with no real substantial time off) I’m feeling a little tuckered out and have a few small issues that I want to iron out in the off season and I thought what better time to work on form and get more bare in my footwear than the winter off season (aside from the fact that it is colder out…but the challenge kind of appeals to me).

    Any recommendations on what to prioritize when working on form? Maybe a follow up blog post to share what you do when you really want to dial in form? -DH

    • Erik Lee Skjon
      November 25, 2011

      I agree a follow-up post on form would be nice. Unless there’s already one in the archives? If so, please point the way …

  10. Rob
    November 22, 2011

    Hire a coach! Seriously. I benefited greatly from starting running in High School when I joined the XC/Track team. If I got nothing else out of running during High School and College I learned proper form. From day one, starting fresh as a very new runner I had all the typical runner ailments, tight muscles, “shin splints” etc…. Well it was because:

    1. For new runners, the body takes some time to adapt to this new activity; tendons, muscles, bones need to “figure things out.”

    2. I had horrible form. One day while I was reading the “Lore of Running” in my work study during College, somebody walking by asked, “You’re reading a thick book about running? Isn’t it as easy as putting one foot in front of the other?” I didn’t have a good response back then, but running isn’t as simple as putting one foot in front of the other. I wish it was! No, new runners (and long time runners alike) need to learn proper form. Proper form will do what others have already posted.

    Unfortunately, not everybody started running in an environment where they had a coach. I get that. But seriously, the next best thing is to retain the services of a coach or take a class in one of the popular running forms.

    You can learn from a book or video but it’s easiest to learn from somebody else!

    • Rob
      November 22, 2011

      Oh and about not wanting to spend the money? Take it from me, if you desire to run for the long haul, do yourself a favor and learn how to do it right early on. Save yourself the pain and agony of form induced injuries that has both a monetary, physical and psychological costs!

      What is it worth to you to learn to run properly?

  11. steph
    November 22, 2011

    I agree, but…how to learn good form?
    I read the books, I read the forums, I run barefoot but how do I know if my form is good, or good enough?
    I attended a free workshop with a Pose coach who told me that my form is not totally wrong but I have a lot of adjustments to make. I think he could help me for 60~100 dollars per hour. I don’t have that kind of money.
    I’ve been thinking of asking my husband to videotape me but I want him to know what to focus on, what angle is best etc.

  12. Jeff
    November 22, 2011

    I think it’s a three step process:
    1. Better form prevents injuries
    2. Fewer injuries allows you to train more
    3. Training more makes you faster